Busy secretary needs training, some help and voice mail

Dear Joan:
I work as an administrative secretary in a busy university department. I've only been here for six months and I am the only support person besides a part-timer who works at night. There are 45 faculty and 85 grad students-- for which I am required to make copies, send faxes, accept messages and calls and type manuscripts for publication. I keep very busy trying to handle all these functions by myself.

Many times I have to leave my desk to make hundreds of copies for faculty, or the office, and I can't make it back to my desk on time to answer the phone when it rings. In this case, my supervisor will pick up the calls, since she is the only other person in the office.

Recently, the office was very quiet and I decided to make copies. (It feels good to get away from my desk to do these other tasks.) Even though my supervisor's office is right next to my desk, she doesn't communicate much with me. While making copies, I was not aware that she was in a meeting. I apparently missed a phone call. Later when my supervisor's meeting was over, she came to me and very loudly shouted, "I am really ticked off that you are not picking up all the phone calls." And pointing to my desk, she said, "You're job is to sit at that desk and take phone calls! If I am in a meeting, I am unable to answer the phone and we are missing calls. This cannot be tolerated! And another thing, if faculty asks you to make copies right away, you just tell them they have to wait! If I am on the phone, you can't make copies!"

If she would have communicated with me, this incident would not have happened. She could have told me that she was going to be in a meeting for awhile. If I had known I wouldn't have left my desk.

In addition, she never responds when I try to make small talk from time to time. She cuts me right off. The only time she will speak to me is when I make a mistake. I feel ignored, ill-trained, and my job duties have never been defined. I would like to have some control over my job. She seems angry all the time. I don't have this problem with anyone else in the office.

My performance review went well with the Department Chair. He said I was doing a good job and that the professors felt the same way. My supervisor, however, said that I should have more initiative and that I didn't learn all of the duties I was expected to do. I wanted to learn these things but she never trained me for these, and she doesn't know how my computer works. My Department Chair knows about this problem. I've requested a job transfer with the HR department. Any advice?

Let me get this straight. You're supporting 130 people besides two administrators. You've had little to no training during your six months on the job. Your supervisor doesn't communicate with you. You apparently don't have voice mail. Your duties require you to be in two places at one time. You show initiative on a slow day, and later you're penalized for not showing initiative. And you're also punished on a performance review for not learning your job through mental telepathy. Happy Secretaries Day.

As I see it, your supervisor needs to stop looking at you like a personal assistant and start thinking about how to manage the support needs of 132 people, not just her own. The questions I have are: Why not get voice mail so you aren't chained to your desk? Why not have the evening assistant or the professors themselves make copies? What about hiring a student(s) to help with the support of the department? Why not set up a training schedule to make sure you learn your job? Why not set a weekly meeting to keep you informed?

You can either go to your supervisor to propose suggestions such as these, or you can leave and go find a manager who is eager to have you. With employment figures low and demand for good assistants so high, there is no reason why you shouldn't give yourself a Secretaries Day present of a supervisor who treats you with respect and actively helps you grow in your job.

Joan Lloyd is a Milwaukee based executive coach and organizational & leadership development strategist. She is known for her ability to help leaders and their teams achieve measurable, lasting improvements. Joan Lloyd & Associates, specializes in leadership development, organizational change and teambuilding, providing: executive coaching, CEO coaching & leader team coaching, 360-degree feedback processes, retreat facilitation and presentation skill coaching and small group labs. Contact Joan Lloyd & Associates at (414) 573-1616, mailto:info@joanlloyd.com, or www.JoanLloyd.com 
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